Reunión de Medio Año

Puebla, México

8 al 11 de marzo del 2013

Violence against journalists has not lessened, nor has lack of punishment and their vulnerability, despite the political efforts in the last year of the six-year presidential term which ended and the promises of the one just begun. The advances in public policies with regard to the rights and protection of journalists were consolidated in 2012 with the Felipe Calderón Hinojosa administration. Nevertheless, there is fear that those advances will not only be not respected but that there exists a “wiping of the slate clean” of what has come about in this new presidential term of Enrique Peña Nieto. In this period there was the disappearance of a female journalist and the murder of two reporters, while the offices of the newspaper El Siglo de Torreón suffered new attacks in which one person was killed. The passage of a new Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and the Making of Crimes Committed Against Journalists Federal Offenses and the amendment of Article 73, paragraph XXI of the Constitution, which empowers the federal authorities to take up cases of crimes against freedom of expression, was recommended by the IAPA. As a result of the new law on October 19 there was set up and installed the Advisory Council of the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, the selection of whose members from the press, civil society and academia has been questioned for having been carried out unilaterally in the Interior Ministry. On November 13, the Government Council was set up, made up of representatives of the Interior, Foreign Relations and Public Security Ministries, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office, Human Rights Commission and four members of the Advisory Council – Michel Chamberlin, Edgar Cortez, Jade Ramírez and José Israel Hernández. Since its creation, according to figures from Lía Limón, the Interior Ministry’s Deputy Attorney at Law for Legal Affairs and Human Rights, 43 cases were received, 11 of which sought protection for journalists, three in the Federal District, two in Oaxaca and Baja California and one each in Michoacán, Zacatecas, Guerrero and Tamaulipas, where urgent protective and security measures for the family of a journalist were put in place. For this a 42 million peso (approximately $3.3 million) fund was used that the past administration set for the operation of the Protection Mechanism. The law envisioned that in the 2013 expenditure budget 129 million pesos (some $10.1 million) would be spent, but that resource has not yet been used. At the meetings that the Council and the Government Board have held there has been progress in the creation of internal operating rules for the Mechanism, the profiles of its members and operation of the trust. Following the presentation of President Peña Nieto’s “Mexico Pact,” which questioned “the current mechanism created in the Interior Ministry there will be created a special body in which will participate authorities and members of organized civil society,” it being feared that the Mechanism will become neutralized. To date the federal government has not issued any official pronouncement to clarify that the Pact refers to other petitions and not to the Mechanism created. Also noted is little advance in application of the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Making Crimes Committed Against Journalists Federal Offenses. According to Lía Limón since the Mechanism was created and 47 cases reported only seven have investigations open before the Attorney General’s Office of Special Attorney For Dealing With Crimes Committed Against Journalists. The figure is not encouraging. Since June 2012 the cases of violence against journalists can be brought before the federal authority, although of the six cases of the murder of journalists brought to the Veracruz Public Prosecutor’s Office none was sent by the Mexican Attorney General’s Office, among them the Regina Martínez case. Nor was the case of Adrián Silva Moreno, a Puebla reporter, where the investigation was only carried out by the state Public Prosecutor’s Office. Up to October 2012 the online news portal Dossier Político in Sonora suffered more than 300 attempted attacks on the security of its Web site that apparently came from the state government. The executives were unable to have the matter brought to the Special Prosecutors’ Office for the attention of Crimes Committed Against Freedom of Expression. Neither did reporter Blanca Esther Buenfil, from Quintana Roo, editorial director of the portal, who reported to the Attorney General’s Office that she was the victim of libels in e-mails alluding to her personal life, manage to get the Public Prosecutor’s Office to pronounce on the case. From 2006 to date this Public Prosecutor’s Office has pronounced one conviction, and the arrest of two persons implicated in the murder of Coahuila journalist Valentín Valdez, whose case file remains open three years after the murder and two after the arrest of those allegedly responsible. Other major developments: On October 23, the government of Rafael Moreno Valle announced through its Social Communication Director Sergio Rámirez Robes that it will file lawsuits against 19 Puebla journalists on a charge of “injury to reputation.” It was argued that “said members of the press systematically libeled Governor Moreno Valle or another official of the state government.” On the date mentioned the first two suits were filed, to be the start of the collective legal action against news media and journalists, it being the first case of its kind in the country. Barely one year earlier the Mexican Senate had approved on a vote of 81 in favor eliminating Articles 1 and 31 of the Press Law following the repeal of the offenses of libel, defamation and calumny in the Federal Penal Code. On October 29, the host of news programs on Canal 12 television in Río Verde, San Luis Potosí, Adela Jazmín Alcaraz López ,was reported to have gone missing by the state Public Prosecutor’s Office after losing contact with her on October 26. Alcaraz ran the nightly news slot aired by the channel in the small town where her mother reported her missing after not having heard from her in three days. The public prosecutor, Miguel Ángel García, said at the time that it was not known if a kidnapping or extortion was involved. On November 14, Adrián Silva Moreno, a freelance journalist, died in an attack carried out by three hitmen who intercepted him as he was returning from a military operation in which a winery where stolen fuel was stored was shut down in Tehuacán, Puebla. Silva Moreno had told colleagues on the phone that he was coming back from covering the story and he had witnessed an armed clash between civilians and members of the Mexican Army, along with his assistant, Mizrael López González, who also died following the attack. So far there has been no progress in the investigations by Puebla state authorities. On December 4, after receiving threats journalist Milton André Martínez, director of the online media outlet and a correspondent of Televisa television in Saltillo, Coahuila, was attacked and injured by three men. Martínez had already suffered attacks by local authorities after being detained on March 4, 2011 for two hours by agents of the then State General Attorney’s Office who threatened to kill him. On February 8, five employees of the newspaper El Siglo de Torreón were abducted at different times in different places. After a three-hour search they were released the following dawn. The case was not a typical one, as none of the kidnapped employees worked in the newspaper’s newsroom. None of them was injured, however from that time on the paper has been guarded by police officers. From February 25 onwards the offices were the subject of attacks by armed people who shot from vehicles at the police officers patrolling the grounds. On February 27, the newspaper, celebrating its 91 years of publication, was attacked again, the target being the police officers guarding it. On that occasion one person was killed and two injured, one of them a police officer. El Siglo de Torreón has been one of the institutions most attacked, being the target of explosive raids in 2009 and 2011, in which its façade was damaged. None of these events has been clarified by local authorities, nor have any reports been issued on progress or arrests, although on March 1 Governor Rubén Moreira Valdez went to visit the plant and offer the necessary support to ensure its security. On March 7, it Was learned that the Federal Police, the National Defense Department and the Durango Public Prosecutor’s Office had captured 20 alleged members of the self-styled “La Laguna Cartel,” who were alleged to be involved in the attacks on the newspaper. On February 12, members of organized crime began distributing leaflets and posters in which they called for the collaboration of citizens, to whom they offered “recompense” of 600,000 pesos for locating the manager of the Facebook account “Valor por Tamaulipas.” Using insults, they warned that they were seeking to silence those who publish risky accounts of clashes between rival cartels and security forces, or against their close relatives ¬– parents, brothers, children or wives. The leaflets and posters contained numerous telephone numbers so those interested in providing information could communicate with them and gave a warning to those who engaged in actions similar to those posted on the Web site. The Facebook account “Viva por Tamaulipas” was born more than a year ago with the aim of warning people about “Dangerous Situations” that happened in the various towns in the state, such as “uprisings,” shootouts and extortions by the cartels operating in the state – Zetas and del Golfo. On February 24, five journalists were attacked in Hermosillo, Sonora, while they were covering a march by the group “No + Impuestos “ (No More Taxes). They were assaulted by members of a supposed civil organization self-styled “Soy Bajos Recursos” (I Have Few Resources). Those attacked were people belonging to the media Dossier Politico, El Imparcial and Libera Radio and freelance journalists. In addition to verbal attacks the reporters were physically assaulted, their equipment was damaged and cell phones stolen. On March 3, there was the first murder of a journalist this year and in the six-year presidential term, Jaime Guadalupe González, editor and reporter of the online newspaper in the town of Ojinaga, Chihuahua. He was shot 18 times in full view in the downtown Ojinaga. Following the attack his assailants stole his camera and fled. The following day, there was reported in the Ojinaga Noticias that the death of its editor would be the last news it would give because what had happened was evidently “an attack on the press.” Immediately afterwards the portal was shut down. The Ciudad Juárez Journalists Association declared that “Chihuahua cannot continue to be one of the states of highest risk for the practice of journalism, so what is needed is to set up means of protection of journalists that really provides security for those of us who work in this noble profession.” Two days after the murder, on March 6, the violence returned – two almost simultaneous attacks on news media in the Chihuahua state capital. The first was against the newspaper El Diario de Ciudad Juárez. Just after 1:00 a.m. a pickup truck with two armed men aboard entered the parking lot and the men fired seven times at the front of the building and the main door. No one was killed or injured, there was only material damage. Anout the attack Pedro Torres, the paper’s news editor, said that had been no advance warning, and declared, “We had been having a time when things were relatively calm and really this was a very disagreeable surprise, we did not expect it, including many of the security measures that we had implemented in the hardest months of this war on the illicit drug trade we had relaxed to an extent because of that climate of relative calm.” In recent years two El Diario de Ciudad Juárez journalists were killed, Armando Rodríguez Carreón, on November 13, 2008 and Luis Carlos Santiago, on September 16, 2010. The second attack occurred at around 1:30, against the plant of Canal 44 television. Unidentified assailants fire at the front of the building. No one was killed or injured. The following day, the channel’s official presenter of news on open television gave the media’s official accounts, saying, “We understand that those who carried out this attack intend to send a message to society in general that regarding the question of security things are not all that good, as some institutions and people have wanted to say.” A series of intimidating actions and direct acts of aggression have been reported recently against the newspaper chain El Mundo. In mid January, the general director of the medium was persecuted by unknown automobiles. He also received anonymous calls on his cellphone and messages were sent to his family members’ cellphones as well, which warned that he was at risk for his life. So far this year, directors and columnists of the El Mundo newspapers have been victims of interventions in their electronic mail, as well as their personal Twitter and Facebook accounts. One of the directors received a call at his home to threaten him with death and demand that he leave the city. The journalist left the city that same week. After these events, a violent message arrived from organized crime and power groups. On January 26, 2013, the director of El Mundo of Orizaba was denied his freedom, tortured and threatened with menacing handling of weapons. They put the journalist in a vehicle, subjecting him and tying him up, and took him in an unknown direction. The director of El Mundo in Orizaba had already received threats and messages through third parties which warned him not to get involved with organized crime interests controlled by government authorities or former workers. For five hours the journalist was tortured physically and psychologically, and was threatened with reprisals against his family. Afterward, he was released with a warning not to publish or report to the authorities on what had happened to him. The journalist was incapacitated for three weeks. The threats and messages of intimidation continued, leading to the resignations of several reporters. The aggression and successive threats were followed by a direct message from the governor of the state. On February 6, El Mundo of Córdoba published a survey authorized by the Veracruzan Electoral Institute (IEV) showing results that were not favorable to those aspiring to the mayor’s office of the PRI in Córdoba, the party that holds power in Veracruz and the city of origin of the present governor. The survey, carried out by a consulting company, provoked the ire of the Coordinator of Social Communication of the Government of the State, Gina Dominguez Colio, who called the general director of the El Mundo newspaper chain to complain about the result and on the basis of the publication of that information, cancelled the advertising contract with the newspaper. In addition, a conversation with the director of Public Relations of the newspaper, Salvador Landeros, Domínguez threatened the general director that by continuing to publish articles against the state government or the governor, the same thing would happen as to other communicators in Veracruz who had criticized the Executive, who had been harassed and attacked for questioning the actions of the state administrator. On March 7, four posters in the form of blankets appeared in the city of Saltillo, Coahuila, against the general director of the newspaper Zócalo in which he was threatened with death in apparent reprisal for his editorial posture. The blanket that was not signed warns that the messenger is number 42.